Thursday, July 17, 2014

More Evidence of Harper Government Disinformation to Justify Privatization of Sick Days Program

July 17, 2017

On July 16, the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released his report entitled Fiscal Materiality of Sick Leave in 20 Departments of the Core Public Administration. The report purports to make a financial analysis of the variance in sick leave costs among departments. The report is produced in the midst of the preparation for negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreements of hundreds of thousands of federal public servants. Treasury Board President Tony Clement made no secret that wrecking and privatizing the sick days program of the public servants is one of the main items on the government agenda. To this effect, it has launched a campaign of hysteria in the media claiming that the sick days program is unsustainable and a huge liability to the public purse.

In his report, the PBO states that the government practice of not replacing workers when they are off sick means that the overwhelming majority of federal public servants have to make up for work when they return, at no additional cost to the government.

According to the report, "the incremental cost of paid sick leave was not fiscally material and did not represent material costs for departments in the Core Public Administration." The report defines incremental cost as far as sick days are concerned as a cost that is greater than when a worker is present at work. This only applies according to the report to departments which do replace workers when they get sick, which is the case for very few departments with high-risk and high-stress workplaces such as correctional services.

Even in those departments where the workers are being replaced when they are sick, the report says that what it calls the incremental cost is negligible in the overall expenditures of the departments to the point that it is considered by the PBO to have no materiality. The report states: "However, the costs of backfilling of employees while on sick leave could be deemed material if the cost exceeded $500 million government-wide or 10 per cent of a department's budget. PBO did not find evidence that either of these conditions was met in the years for which data were available. "

As a slice of overall budget, according to the report, the expenditure on sick leave ranges from 0.16 per cent to 2.74 per cent of total departmental spending.

Tony Clement did not argue with the figures that are in the report but hypocritically said that the fact that workers who are sick are not replaced shows that the sick days program is a burden to the workers who have to do the extra work while their work colleagues are off sick.

"When a manager is faced with a short-term sick-leave situation, she or he makes do with the staff that they have," said Treasury Board President Tony Clement. "That means people are doing two jobs rather than one. These are the things that managers are telling me occurs."

One is to believe that cutting off sick days will get rid of the problem altogether!

The federal public sector unions immediately reacted to the PBO's report, saying that it shows that Clement's campaign against sick days is ill intended and bogus.

"This report confirms PSAC's position that federal public sector sick leave is both crucial and sustainable," said Robyn Benson, National President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. "The current system ensures that employees do not have to work when they are ill."

"This government's story on federal employee sick leave is as long as Pinocchio's nose," said the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada Vice President Shannon Bittman. "Their determination to bring in a massive, privately run short term disability plan, against evidence that it's needed, is proof that they intend to ‘fix' sick leave until it's broken and to introduce a for-profit system that in the end will cost both employees and the public more than the existing one."